If your child is being treated you may see many different types of care providers including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and care assistants, as well as Child life specialists. Your child also may have a variety of treatments, depending on your child’s form of cancer.
Different Physicians Who Work with Childhood Cancer
The term pediatric oncology – or childhood cancer – is a very vague phrase that covers many different areas. Your child may be seen by a specific type of pediatric oncologist, depending on what type of cancer your child has.
General oncologists treat patients who have a tumor that is not in the brain or bone.
Pediatric oncologists are needed if neuroblastoma, kidney cancer, liver cancer, or another “soft tissue” type of tumor or cancer is found.
Pediatric neuro-oncologists are physicians who specialize in different types of brain and nervous system cancers. Your child may see a pediatric neuro-oncologist if your child’s form of cancer is in brain, spinal cord, or another part of the nervous system.
Pediatric orthopedic oncologists see children who have different types of bone cancers. These cancers can include osteosarcomas, Ewing’s sarcoma, or another cancer in their bones.
Pediatric hematologists work with children who have blood disorders and blood cancers. Seeing a pediatric hematologist doesn’t necessarily mean that your child has a blood cancer. These providers treat many children who have a blood disorder like anemia, hemophilia, or high white blood cell counts, but who don’t have cancer. If your child has leukemia, he or she also may be treated by a pediatric hematologist.
Treatments for Childhood Cancer
The treatments and services your child may receive for his or her cancer depend on the cancer your child has. Some treatments are more appropriate for certain types of cancers.
Chemotherapy is the use of medications to treat your child’s cancer. Your child may receive treatment as an inpatient or an outpatient. Your child also may receive this medication through a needle, through a pill, or as a liquid that they swallow. There are various side effects from chemotherapy. Your pediatric oncologist will discuss these side effects with you.
Radiation delivers certain types of ionizing rays (the radiation) to a targeted area. This type of treatment can be delivered to your child as an outpatient. Your child’s oncologist may opt to use radiation and chemotherapy together to deliver more effective treatment for your child. Radiation therapy may be most effective for tumors and soft tissue cancers. It typically is not used for blood cancers or blood disorders. Radiation can be used for treatment or palliative care. Palliative care means that the radiation is being used to help with symptoms, but will not necessarily cure the cancer.
Stem cell transplants can be a successful treatment for some types of childhood cancer, including some forms of leukemia. The stem cells may come from your child, siblings, or donor cord blood. Your child will need to be hospitalized for the stem cell transplant. Some stem cell programs at children’s hospitals offer various forms of assistance for families whose children are having transplants. This assistance can include dedicate units for the cancer patients, videophones, and emotional support.